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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2010) . . Page.. 219 ..

are better paid than many other jurisdictions. Of course, there is still a long way to go to address workforce shortages, and pay and conditions for workers in the childcare sector. There are ongoing federal campaigns being run by groups—one of them of course is the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union—to push for improvements in these areas.

We also need to ensure that there is a strong and ongoing commitment from childcare providers, whether private or community-based, to continuing professional development and training of their workers. This allows the development of a strong and robust industry that allows workers to grow and develop and follow their chosen career path.

Better pay and conditions for childcare workers is vital and welcome, but is another reason why the costs for childcare in the ACT can be seen as higher than in other jurisdictions. For many parents—this is a really important point—there is the issue of quality. Of course, that comes out first when you are choosing a childcare centre for your child. “Is this providing the best quality care for my child?”

The ACT government has little control over childcare costs. Ms Burch has put those points out there, around the fact that these are businesses. Whether they are full profits that need to return a profit to the company or whether they are community based and need to cover the costs of operating, it is not the government’s role to walk in and tell them how much to charge each parent. But the government does play a role in regulation, and therefore compliance costs are an area that may need some investigation.

There is a whole section in the Children and Young People Act that deals with childcare, monitoring of childcare, and regulations and so forth that need to be met by childcare centres. This is also important if we are going to go to the health and safety issues and the quality of childcare that is provided here in the territory. But maybe we do need to be going back to ensure that that is not putting too much of a burden on our childcare centres.

The ACT government cannot legislate as to how much childcare providers charge for their service, as I said. They can, however, look at the role they play in childcare provision and investigate options for bringing costs down. The federal government also play a role here. They need to do more to address high costs, high demand and skill shortages in the industry. I would encourage Minister Burch to lobby her federal counterparts to make any necessary improvements.

As we all know, childcare is a massive part of early childhood development in order to strengthen social and emotional connections as well as intellectual development. A recent research paper on the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations website states:

Brain research shows us that, from birth to five years, children already have most of the physical brain capacity they need. We now know that significant learning and brain growth occurs during infancy.

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